Baseball fans woke up Wednesday morning to see one of the best outfield throws in recent memory, with Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes gunning down the Angels’ Howie Kendrick at home plate. (Of course, some of you were likely fortunate enough to watch the play as it happened, or shortly thereafter, on Tuesday night.)
How many times have you watched Cespedes’ throw? Even after reading the first paragraph of this post? It’s all right. It should be watched again and again. Sheer enthusiasm has led a few to declare that this might be the best outfield throw ever. Maybe it is. Let’s watch it again.
I mean, the throw is certainly great. But best ever? (Consider also that Cespedes had to make that fantastic throw because he made an error leading up to it.)
There are several other candidates that simply must be in the conversation. Taking into consideration the many great plays from the likes of Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Andre Dawson that we’ll never get to see, here are nine more of the best MLB outfield throws ever recorded on video.
Yasiel Puig hammers Marlon Byrd down at third base: August 14, 2013
Let’s begin with something a bit more recent. It’s not just Puig’s hitting that’s made him such a sensation. He’s made some spectacular defensive plays in the outfield. I would argue that what makes this throw impressive is that Puig makes it mostly with his arm. Yes, he steps into the throw and puts enough on it that he falls to the ground. But Puig’s momentum was carrying him toward the right-field line, so he had to change direction before throwing the ball.
Jose Guillen throws out Neifi Perez from deep right field: July 27, 1998
This one is probably the gold standard, the throw against which all others must be judged. Guillen unloads his throw from the edge of the warning track all the way over to third base without a bounce. Pirates third baseman Keith Osik doesn’t have to move his feet from the bag. He just reaches up to catch Guillen’s rocket, then makes the tag. MLB Network calls this the most unbelievable throw of all time. Care to argue?
Ichiro Suzuki guns down Terrence Long trying for third: April 11, 2001
Here’s what always immediately comes to my mind when people start talking about great outfield throws. This was early on during Ichiro’s rookie season. We didn’t know what kind of player he would be. (Of course, he went on to win the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.) But Ichiro announced himself with this play, throwing a rope from right field and hitting David Bell right in the glove.
Vladimir Guerrero takes out Alberto Castillo at home: July 7, 2001
Oh, Canada! This is Expos on Blue Jays crime right here. Had an American team been involved, Guerrero’s throw might have caused an international incident. The throw looked as if it might be too high, but it took a perfect arc into catcher Michael Barrett’s mitt, allowing him to whirl around and make the tag.
Bo Jackson throws Harold Reynolds out at home: June 5, 1989
Reynolds surely thought he was going to score, moving on a hit-and-run with the ball going over Jackson’s head to the left field wall. But Jackson caught the ball on the hop and fired it toward home from the warning track. Making the play even better is Reynolds’ reaction after being called out, throwing his helmet in disbelief. How about these two re-enact the play at MLB Network’s Studio 42 sometime?
Bo Jackson mows down Mike Gallego running to third: August 31, 1993
This might be a more impressive play for Jackson, considering that it took place after he had hip surgery. He also backpedals several steps to make the catch, though he does take a few steps forward to put something on the throw. And once again, there’s no bounce or hop. The ball goes straight to third base, with Robin Ventura catching it a foot or two in front of the bag.
Rick Ankiel freezes Jordan Schafer at third base: April 16, 2012
We could probably devote an entire post to great outfield throws by Rick Ankiel. He made so many throughout his career. But this one is particularly memorable because his reputation for a rocket arm and throwing out baserunners precedes him. On most plays like this, Jordan Schafer would likely score. But he didn’t even try to test Ankiel, taking only a step or two down the third-base line before going back to the bag. It’s reminiscent of this play involving Clemente and Mark Belanger from the 1971 World Series.
Rick Ankiel gets Willy Taveras and Omar Quintanilla at third: May 7, 2008
OK, we had to put Ankiel on this list more than once. The day that he made not one, but two sensational throws to gun down opposing baserunners had to be included. This is what established Ankiel’s reputation as a defensive whiz and killer arm in center field. No, he never developed into a good hitter, but he could make an impact with the same arm that once threw 97 mph fastballs.
Taveras was a fast baserunner tagging up from second base to third. This wasn’t someone trying to take an extra base, going from first to third. Yet Ankiel’s throw beat Taveras by a couple of feet. And it went right into Troy Glaus’ glove at third base. He barely had to move.
On the Quintanilla play, Ankiel threw from the edge of the warning track, deep into Coors Field’s left-center field. And again, he was right on target. Glaus had to reach up for the throw, but didn’t have to move away from the bag. Bang!